The myth of Upstate New York being a place where art and culture is lacking is officially over.
In the last couple of years, not only have our own residents paved the way for arts to take the forefront, but the recent influx of urban creatives have helped the growth of arts communities.
An Uptick in Relocations
Over the course of the last year Upstate New York has seen an uptick in relocations. According to the The Daily Gazette, Albany County alone has seen a near 2,000 increase in requests for relocation services from NYC transplants. The pandemic allowed for our urban neighbors to rethink their relationship to their surroundings and to community.
The end result being New Yorkers exploring those renewed relationships in Hudson, Saratoga, the Adirondacks, Albany, and Troy. Along with their rediscoveries they’ve brought their love for studio art, film, writing, and nature. Below, you’ll meet four creatives in our community who have a newfound love for CapNY.
Meet outrageously funny and quick-witted Brooklynite Sam Jones. Self described as someone who has always climbed through windows to open doors, Sam is a creative who has had to work from the ground up for her career. While she currently works as a Creative Director at Viacom, Sam has made a name for herself as a comedy writer and actor. Sam’s comedy is defined by cutting satire aimed on societal expectations of women; her first viral moment being spoof commercials for feminine products.
Desiring a change of pace after the pandemic, Sam has found a new home in Greene County. “When the pandemic hit our friends moved up here and we were like ‘How the f— are you going to live up here all winter long?!’ But then we kept visiting and we were like ‘Maybe they have the right idea, I like this life!’ After a while I had a vision to buy a quaint house that I can afford, that’s less than my f–ing rent and here I am and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.” Sam loves the connection to nature that Greene County provides. Lush and full of beautiful scenery, the Catskills offer an atmosphere unlike any other.
The CapNY Community
One thing that surprised Sam is the hub of creatives residing in CapNY. “It truly is surprising how many fellow creatives moved up here! Every week there’s a get-together at someone’s house. There are so many creatives who’ve moved to Colonie, Albany, Chatham. I was nervous, but there are all these creative people here to have conversations with. These conversations are creative and innovative.”
The slower pace of the Catskills also provides Sam, and other creative transplants, with a chance to connect to themselves. “We’re so disconnected in NYC. We don’t pay attention to nature. The pace is slower here, I think it lets us all take a pause. I think the pandemic forced us, especially me, to slow down and be like what is my purpose here? I love that I get to be more centered and quiet.” And it’s that very quiet that allowed Sam to think of her next evolution. While comedy will always be a natural talent and calling card, Sam has taken the time to expand on other genres of writing, including screenplays, a memoir, and eventually performance art. She wants to find a way to fund the funny in her new reality.
It’s for this reason she feels as if she was called here to engage in her next phase of life.
If you want to follow Sam’s journey, check out her website at https://www.therealsamjones.com/.
“In the constitution, the Adirondacks were declared to be forever wild. When I saw the Adirondacks at a young age I knew that I would have to make my way back here one day.” Enchanted with our forests due in part to his passionate expansive nature, Oscar Bográn has always had the heart of a creative.
Hailing from Honduras by way of Brooklyn, Oscar Bográn of Bográn Productions located in Schenectady. He is a sculptor, performance, conceptual and visual artist who has studied and taught at Tufts School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and has worked for the Schenectady City School District.
Just as Oscar knew that he was destined to be in this region, he’s always known that art was essential to his life. “I grew up in Bushwick in the ‘80s. I came in, didn’t speak English and I saw graffiti art for the very first time at seven years old.” He lived right next to a train and used to watch the older kids climb and spray the trains. This is when he knew he wanted to be an artist. Oscar has honed his skills to include multiple forms of art – writing, rapping, and studio art – his passion knowing no bounds.
An Artist Community in Schenectady
Partial winner of a Schenectady downtown grant, Oscar is now focused on bringing all forms of art to CapNY. “I was inspired by an artist based in Chicago who turned some abandoned houses and buildings into literal art installations. I thought to myself how great it would be if we had actual spaces artists in this area could use. So, I applied for grants for years and years and then after getting a mentor-supporter, received a $300,000 grant to create my own version of it.”
When complete, Oscar will run an art house site called Alchemy Urban Playground. It will host all artists but primarily Black and brown artists and entrepreneurs in the area. As creatives in this space we should always be looking for a diversity of perspective. Oscar is doing just that. You can keep an eye out for the Alchemy Urban Playground sometime next year.
Meet Gabe Ling, a Junior Narrative Designer at Vicarious Visions game development company. If you’re familiar with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series or Guitar Hero you’re familiar with their work. As a game writer, Gabe builds the narrative and dialogue for various games with a team of individuals. Though writing is a solo pursuit traditionally, Gabe enjoys the collaboration it requires, as well as the delicate balance writing for games needs.
“When you’re writing for the screen there’s a big emphasis on what is not said and what is left implied by the absence of dialogue. In games, you can’t have that, you have to load the dialogue with important information. Gamers typically skip through cutscenes and narrative content. So you have to find a way to pace out key information like character traits or quest lore in a way that is immediately clear and digestible for the player.” A difficult feat indeed, but an essential part of building story and gameplay.
A Stereotype Overturned
Coming to us from New Jersey by way of Seattle, Gabe didn’t know what to initially think about Troy. “I wasn’t really hyped to go back to the east coast if I’m being honest. I was looking on Glassdoor for my job and everyone was kind of dour about the area, talking about how Albany is barren and there’s nothing here. But now that I’ve been here for 9 months and I love the area. It’s full of life and people have much more personality here than given credit for. I’ve done some exploring since I’ve been vaccinated and I’m pleasantly surprised.” I could not have said it better! There is a rich tapestry of people here and CapNY doesn’t get enough shine.
For Gabe, his vehicle to finding community was Pride Month in CapNY. “There were so many pride events. I met so many of my friends and got to see more of the city. Something that really struck me about this area is that even though the queer presence here is small, everyone knows everyone. The atmosphere of the community here feels intimate and warm in that way. There is a lot of overlap in the queer and creative community.” The intimacy that smaller regions such as Albany, Schenectady and Troy provide is unmatched. Being in close proximity with one another can afford opportunities such as these to build stronger connections, as Gabe has found.
Ultimately for Gabe a move to CapNY has become a move for growth in his creative pursuits and a chance to reconnect with others in his community intentionally.
Coming to us from Brooklyn is Amy Hausmann, the new Director of the Olana State Historic Site. The Olana site is an earthwork created by 19th century artist Fredric Church that sits on a high point in Columbia County. The artist contoured the land over a period of 40 years to create a near cinematic experience of Columbia County, from which the Hudson River, the Catskill mountains, and the Taconic Range can be seen.
With over 20 years of curating experience specifically with the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and the New York Transit museum, Amy was a natural fit for Director. “I am a curator. My whole career has been in the arts. I’ve worked for non-profit organizations and eventually worked for NYS in the MTA Arts and Design which produces all the public art for the subway system. It was amazing to bring different music, graphic arts, and poetry into the everyday life of 8.5 million people.”
Like so many long distance commuters, Amy loved working in the city while being able to enjoy her second home in a rural area, but the commute wore on her. “It got a bit old. I really fell in love with all the green here. I loved being up in the mountains and being around the trees, and the river, and the open sky. Every morning I would drive with my husband across the Rip Van Winkle bridge and I would see Olana glittering on the hill as I was getting ready to get on the train for work. I would say to myself, ‘Gosh I really would love to find something to be up here full time.’” That she did! NYS Parks had an opening at the Olana site and the rest was history.
Abundant with Arts & Culture
One thing Amy would like the world to know is that this region is abundant with arts and culture. “I like to think of the idea that this region is full of art, culture, and really rich history. We’re all working together, symbiotically, to encourage people to be here and participate in all that this region has to offer. Olana is a great part of this as well as so many small and bigger businesses, great art institutions, cultural institutions, and artists who help to make a gorgeous mosaic that always existed in the city, live here as well.”
If you’d like to learn more about the Olana Historic site and meet Amy, check out the website and book a tour! You can learn more about visiting Olana with kids here!
Written by: Arielle Steele
Arielle is a local writer who has a passion for community, film, dance, and Beyoncé. When she is not working at Ayco, she can be found working on her next film project or trying out a new hairstyle.